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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"How happy is that state of a believer, to have a sure promise that all shall work together for good in the end, and, in the mean time sure refuge where to find present relief, support, and protection! How comfortable is it, when trouble is near, to know that the Lord is near likewise, and to commit ourselves and all our cares simply to Him, believing that His eye is upon us, and His ear open to our prayers. Under the conduct of such a Shepherd, we need not fear, although we are called to pass through fire and water, through the valley of the shadow of death, He will be with us, and will show Himself mighty on our behalf!"
                         - John Newton

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Hide yourself under the shadow of His wings; rely upon His care and power; look upon Him as a physician who has graciously undertaken to heal your soul of the worst of sicknesses, sin. Yield to His prescriptions, and fight against every thought that would represent it as desirable to be permitted to choose for yourself. When you cannot see your way, be satisfied that He is your leader. When your spirit is overwhelmed within you, He knows your path: He will not leave you to sink. He has appointed seasons of refreshment, and you shall find that He does not forget you. Above all, keep close to the throne of grace. 
I pray that you may be enabled more and more to honor the Lord, by believing His promise: for He is not like a man, that should fail or change, or be prevented by anything unforeseen from doing what He has said...
Here is the mercy - that His ways are above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. Though we are foolish and unbelieving, He remains faithful; He will not deny Himself. I recommend to you especially that promise of God, which is so comprehensive that it takes in all our concernments, I mean, that all things shall work together for good. How hard it is to believe, that not only those things which are grievous to the flesh, but even those which draw forth our corruptions and discover to us what is in our hearts, and fill us with guilt and shame, should in the issue work for our good! Yet the Lord has said it! All your pains and trials, all that befalls you in your own person, or that affects you upon the account of others, shall in the end prove to your advantage. And your peace does not depend upon any change of circumstances which may appear desirable, but in having your will bowed to the Lord's will, and made willing to submit all to His disposal and management."
                         - John Newton

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Grace To Fail

 I was up at 3am the other morning and couldn't sleep. I've battled a health issue for several months that makes it hard for me to sleep through the night sometimes, so I took the opportunity to pray and read a little. 
 Lately, I've been living in the writings of John Newton - his words give me permission to be okay with not being okay and to accept all my failings as opportunities for God's grace to drive deeper in my life. I'm currently working through a book that highlights this truth called Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid. My eyes fell the other night on a paragraph with a powerful (and convicting) statement. As she details a struggle she'd be having with sin in her life, she talks about a conversation she had with her counselor, Margaret: 

"I sat in Margaret's home and poured out my heart to her. I went on for quite awhile as she listened compassionately and jotted down some notes. After our first session ended, she looked calmly into my puffy, reddened eyes and gave me a peculiar kind of hope. She said, 'Barbara, God is going to pour His grace into you. He will either give you grace to change and to grow in these two areas of great struggle with sin, or He will give you the grace to stay the same and survive your failure." 

While I embrace the fact that I know God wants us all to be improving in our lives and facing our fears and weaknesses with faith and dependence upon Him, I am also beginning to realize that much of our discontentment in our lives stems from the simple fact that we think we should be further along than we are. We cannot live with ourselves. We cannot be okay with the fact that we are not okay. And we just can't ever seem to entertain the thought that God sometimes doesn't fix us completely so that we'll have greater reminders of our need for His grace. We carry with us the remnants of a fallen sin nature that, while it doesn't rule us eternally anymore, still rears its ugliness and keeps us in a constant state of humility. But perhaps the key to combatting such failures in the spiritual life isn't trying harder, doing more, aiming higher, and striving for ultimate victory but rather in simply getting close to ourselves and realizing that we can't become who we ideally would like to be. "The model Christian" doesn't actually exist. And the only way we can find ourselves further along than before is by the gradual disciplines of a gracious God who scourges for our benefit and allows us to be tried and tested for our growth and His eventual glory. 
 So...this week...whatever it is you're struggling with, know this: God may or may not remove that thing in your life you've been battling, but He will give you grace either way. Grace to change, or grace to deal with ongoing failure. But regardless of how He sees fit to deal with your failings, be comforted that His forgiveness will forever run full and free on your behalf!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Whatever believers may be separated from, enough remains. None can take Christ from the believer: none can take the believer from Him; and that is enough." 
                    - Matthew Henry

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened."
                          - George Mueller 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The innumerable comforts and mercies with which He enriches even those we call darker days, are sufficient proofs that He does not willingly grieve us: but when He sees a need-be for chastisement, He will not withhold it because He loves us; on the contrary, that is the very reason why He afflicts."
                           - John Newton

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Counting the Cost

 It's been a difficult few weeks. So much has happened recently that has led me to greater depths of knowledge over my own need, sorrow for the brevity of human life, deeper conviction that Christ is the cure for all our soul's diseases - if only we will let Him mend us in all our broken pieces. As a result of what's gone on lately, I have come to a place of realizing that the cost is great when you surrender to the leading of God. He will take you places where you will often find yourself uncomfortable, lonely, struggling, afraid, and fearful as your human heart fights His direction. You may even find yourself abandoned by others who do not desire the same holiness as you. But with every adversity He allows, He brings with it a fuller understanding of who we are and why He is always the answer. Our place isn't to question Him, it's to obey - willingly, and with open hands. That's so easier said than done. I love my comfort zone, and I do everything I can to stay there. But that's not what following Jesus is about. It's stepping out in faith and facing your biggest uncertainties, your greatest fears, with the assurance and peace that only He can give. His paths will likely lead you to situations that cross your own desires...but whoever said that following Him was about us and our happiness anyway?!? 
 I don't know what He's asking you to let go of or what change is ahead for you, but I do want to encourage you that in your wilderness moments, you will see God. If you keep your heart open, He will show you hidden blessings and miracles that you will miss otherwise. Following Him won't always be the most pleasant thing because you'll find yourself treading difficult paths for His sake. But don't run from His plan simply because you don't like toward it because you'll discover it was the best plan all along! 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What We Can Do In A World Consumed By Division

In light of the recent news headlines of shootings, a high-profile former athlete committing suicide this morning, church divisions and other things going on in our world, I felt I had to post this...

As most of you readers know, I don't tend to post on divisive topics. While I do realize that the truth is, in and of itself, divisive in a hostile world that hates God, I try to present the truth to my readers in the least aggressive and threatening way possible. Because we're all on equal ground when it comes to matters of the heart and soul - we've all fallen greatly, and we all need a Savior who will rescue us and give us life. As a result, I feel like this knowledge puts us in a unique and special place to dialogue issues here on this blog. Nobody is above anybody else. We're all on this journey to grace together. 
 That being said, I'm increasingly feeling led to address the escalating division that is sweeping our nation and our culture at large. All one has to do is turn on the news and see people picketing, people yelling, people destroying property and souls...all for the sake of what they believe to be true and just. It's happening everywhere. There can no longer be simply a civil disagreement, a discussion sown in respect even while those involved see an issue differently. All that people have been taught to do now is to shout louder than somebody else. To be more aggressive than the other, just so that you're own point is heard and received. There can be no healthy debate or discussion unless one side agrees completely with the other: either embrace my position, or I'll shoot you down and demean you until I've proven that my side to the argument is true. Being right is more important now than loving well.
Sadly, this spirit is becoming associated with people of the Christian faith. Churches are divided over matters of personal interpretation of core values instead of coming together around the shared absolute truth of the God they believe in. And, on top of the issues themselves, church people are no longer watching the manner in which they state their point of view. While the statement may be accurate, the attitude behind may lack in all things compassionate, caring, understanding, and respectful that, for fear of being seen as "tolerant" of a false point of view, people make the other side feel demeaned, disrespected, hurt, and unwanted. 
 Fear. Fear drives us all to become this way. We're either afraid of being too tolerant and not standing up for truth when we should, or we're afraid of being intolerant and unloving, so we say nothing at all. Either approach is wrong. And we're causing people to take sides because of it. We're driving people away from our Jesus because of it. In this, we have made a grave mistake: out of a desire to defend God and His truth, we've lost sight of the tone in which He would have us to speak and act. We have lost sight of the balance of His character and the simple fact that truth offsets love so that they are designed to assist each other.  
 Impatience, too. Oh...the ever-present feeling that we must hurry to make our point. That we don't have time to wait out a potentially lengthy process with someone of differing viewpoint so that our loving way equally draws them to God as our words! So frequently, we let the emotion of the moment get in the way, and we try to win the other side over in a single blow, only causing more hurt and never achieving what we desire. 
 Over the years, I've been involved in many political, church, or social settings where this aggressive approach to making one's point turned a common vested interest of a group into a divided shouting match where both sides only left with hurt hearts. I've seen it too often, and it's got to change. 
 Three examples of the proper way to compassionately make one's point without disrespecting the other person or group changed the way I view a discussion of sensitive sort. 
First, the example of a pastor who once wrote a letter in response to a article he'd read written by a lesbian college professor: When the author of the article received this letter, she later said that she immediately threw it into the trash after reading the pastor's response. He had spoken truth, but she didn't want to hear it. However, something made her pick it out of the garbage and set it aside. Weeks later, she'd be nearly to the point of throwing it away again, but something would make her read it over and over... and save it. Eventually, after quite some time had passed, the professor reached out to the pastor and they met in person at his house to discuss the issue of homosexuality. To make a long story shorter, his kind and sensitive manner over the course of many weeks and months, eventually drew the professor to attend his listen for herself about who this God was that the pastor kept referring to. In time, she left her life as a lesbian and became a Christian. She married and now has several children. She's also become a best-selling author on the topic of how Christians can relate to the homosexual community, detailing her story and her unlikely conversation. (You can read her story in her books Secrets Of An Unlikely Convert and Openness Unhindered.) The gentle and patient approach of that pastor drew her into the community of faith. He was willing to take the risk of reaching out, yet was also willing to answer her many questions in the most gracious yet truthful way possible.
 Second, the example of a college diving coach and one of his athletes. The Olympic-Caliber diver had everything going for him in terms of talent and recognition in the world. He had already been to an Olympics and was still chasing the elusive gold medal he'd always dreamed of. But he also had an insatiable desire for acceptance, and this had led him to the college party scene. Living this dual life of athletic success but also doing drugs, smoking, drinking, and looking for love in all the wrong places had finally caused him to land himself in a very depressed and dissatisfied state of mind. Finding himself one afternoon in bed and contemplating suicide, the diver reached out to a fellow female diver in the same college program as he, having noticed a big change in her life in recent months. She directed him to the diving coach. Desperate for a solution to his problems, he reached out to the coach. He was invited to the coach's house for dinner. Expecting a quick-fix to his depression, he was surprised when the coach and his wife gave him Jesus. But they did so while asking questions and trying to help the young man to come to conclusions of faith on his own. Over several months time, the diver started to realize that what he needed wasn't fame, or the college party scene, or women. What he needed was God's redemption. He surrendered to the Lord some time later and eventually went on to write a book about his experience called Greater Than Gold. He is now happily married and has a little girl and another child on the way. The coach's approach was centered in truth but was equally intentional as it was direct. He was as much concerned with building a relationship with the young man as helping him to see Christ. 
 Lastly, the example of yet another pastor and a former World-class bobsledder. Much like the diver described above, the bobsledder had been living a dual lifestyle during his teen years. He was now around 20 years old and was watching his own father slip away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Angry at the situation, he had thrown himself into his competing and also into hanging out with his familiar crowd of gang members and party-goers. Just shortly before his father would pass away, he went to visit dad at the hospital. Hung over from a hard night of partying, he arrived to find a pastor there at the hospital room. For some time, the pastor had done ministry over at the nearby Olympic training center and had seen the bobsledder and his family around there. Hearing of their situation, he felt led to drive nearly three hours south to visit them and hopefully communicate God's love to them. He knew that they were not Christians, but he wanted to bless them anyway. The young bobsledder was blown away that someone would come that far just to show care to his father and family. After praying with them, the pastor left his card with the bobsledder and told him to reach out anytime. A few months after dad died, the young man thought he should go to the pastor's Bible Study at the Olympic training center as a way to say thank you...more out of obligation than personal curiosity. But upon getting there, he was surprised by the love that was shown to him by those participating. Intrigued by what he experienced, he began to attend more often and built a relationship with the pastor. Fairly soon after that, he quit his addictions and his connections with the gang. While he still struggled, within a couple of years, God had reached the heart of this rebel and, after nearly committing suicide, he dedicated his life to Christ and was baptized soon the pastor who had first reached out to his family. He became a regular attending member of the pastor's church and allowed the pastor to mentor him deeply in his new-found faith. In 2010, about two years after they first met in a hospital room, both would go to the Winter Olympics together - the bobsledder in his sport, and the pastor as the official chaplain for the U.S. Olympic team. It was a culmination of God's goodness and a pastor's willingness to take a leap of faith and lovingly come alongside a hurting young man. 
 One common theme between all of these stories is that, in each case, the Christian had to take a risk. They had to be willing to enter into the pain that each of these people felt. But because that step was rooted in love, they didn't come in with the sole purpose of trying to "fix" the individual. They simply invited them to give God a chance...and they did so in love. They were intentional. They built a relationship that formed trust, giving them a greater platform from which to share God's truth. They came around these people with a shared sense of need before God and great awareness of their own shortcomings and weaknesses. Instead of taking the approach as many do of, "I'm better than you because I have Jesus and you don't..." they took the way of the Master and said, "I'm a sinner too. I have nothing good to offer anyone in this world except what God has given me. I can't fix you, but Jesus can. Let me introduce you to Him." 
 This approach would fix so many of the divisions we see today. We must realize that God doesn't need to be defended. He can defend Himself. He also doesn't need us. He can certainly make Himself known to a hurting world without our help. But He chooses to use us if we make ourselves available to let Him work through us. So often we act as though He isn't capable of speaking for Himself and it takes all of us to convince a hurting world how wrong they are and how much they need God. But in reality, we need Him as much as they.
 Perhaps we can take a step back and re-think the way we reach out to people of differing viewpoint than ourselves. Instead of picketing everything, shouting down the opposition, and being more concerned with winning an argument, maybe we start by showing the care of our Savior.  Instead of beating them over the head with the truth, maybe we start by simply building a relationship. Perhaps simply asking questions of them over coffee, or texting them a word of care, or inviting them over to a meal is where it starts. After all, the biggest complaint from the religious leaders of Jesus' day was that He chose to eat with sinners. He took the humble place...even to the point of washing the feet of the man who would betray Him. Maybe it's time we follow His example and commit ourselves to daring more deeply when it comes to who we reach out to and what we do. Maybe it's time we take a risk of our own and step out of our comfort zone in the way we reach out. Perhaps there is someone that God is putting in your life or your church that needs to be loved on but is feeling turned off by the aggressiveness of those trying to "fix" their problem. Just maybe the change in that person's life starts with you being willing to start the process of being intentional. Your willingness to follow God's leading and to resist the patten of aggressiveness, divisiveness, and demeaning may open doors to ministering to that person that you never thought possible. Living what you're for instead of stating what you're against will take you a long way. 
 So let us dare to face our fears, to admit our impatience and thus, to start fresh. Beginning from the place of being right or beginning from the place of loving well. Where we start from makes all the difference. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"His love to us counted nothing too costly, too difficult, too grievous. Let us likewise show our love to Christ: nothing too hard, or too expensive, or too hazardous, or too grievous. Let us cross our carnal inclinations to follow Him in painful and costly service."
        - David Clarkson in Voices From The Past

Monday, April 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If your faith stops at the cross - it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ! 

You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you - but one who is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship! 

You need a Savior...
  who can hear your prayers,  
  to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned, 
  to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.

You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need. 

You need a Christ who can be a real friend - loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses. 

You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past - but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.

A dying Christ alone will not satisfy our heart. We must have the living One for our friend! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us! And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead - and is now alive for ever and ever!"
                                           - Charles H. Spurgeon in Morning By Morning

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Why I Need The Resurrection

 It's Easter. All over the world, people are celebrating the arrival of Spring and the hope of new life. Churches are holding services to remember the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead. I've heard the story all my life of how He came to live a sinless life and then died for the sins of mankind so that we'd have eternal hope. But somehow, over the last few years, the Easter story is taking on new meaning for me. 
 Because I'm realizing that the resurrection wasn't just for a one-time act of triumph over eternal destruction and sin but that God is still in the resurrecting business today. My resurrection didn't just happen when I accepted Christ's offer of eternal life...I still need a resurrection today! And will tomorrow...and the day after that...and so on. Until I one day reach my glorified state in Heaven, I will constantly be needing to have new life bred into the dead places of my heart. There are still empty and dark spaces where His love has not yet been allowed to enter and I need His promise of renewal more than ever. I feel the deep effectings of such a broken condition and desire to have them changed by the transforming and redeeming hands of God. I am in the winter season, waiting for the signs of a spiritual spring. But as I look to His ultimate victory on the cross, I see that I have no reason to despair that I am not as far along in my transformation as I would perhaps like. He who began a good work will complete what He started. This is what the message of Easter is and why it matters so much. As a quote I read recently states, 
 "The resurrection of Christ means everything sad is going to come untrue, and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost."
As the flower bulbs burst forth from the cold, dark earth - as I am reminded that He is alive and will be forever - as I greet gladly the arrival of spring and its promise - I ask God to bring new life to my soul. I ask Him to turn all of the messy places into a beautiful garden filled with the scents and colors of His love. I ask Him to fulfill His promise in that He, the resurrected King, can and will resurrect me. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The Son of God was crucified: I am not ashamed - because it is shameful.
The Son of God died: it is immediately credible - because it is silly.
He was buried, and rose again: it is certain - because it is impossible."
            - St. Augustine 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious souls cost Him crucifixion."
                         - C. S. Lewis

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What Would I Have Done?

 If I had walked this earth when Jesus did, what would I have done? This question has driven deep into my heart as of late. I have spent a great deal of time pondering what my own responses would've been if I had witness what the disciples did. What would I have said? What would I have done? 
Perhaps you would like to ponder with me as I place myself back in the time of Christ: 

What would I have done if I'd met Jesus? Would I have greeted Him with the eyes of faith and seen Him as the Savior? Or would I have turned a cold shoulder and been one of those calling for His death? 

What would I have done if I'd seen Jesus performing miracles and teaching radical truths of forgiveness and deliverance? If I'd watched Him touch the blind man, tell the woman caught in adultery not to sin anymore, heard Him speak to the Samaritan at the well and reveal her personal history... if I'd been there to see Him calm the storm...or even rise from the dead...would I have believed Him? 

What would I do if I found myself beginning to embrace the teachings of a rabbi-figure named Jesus who was turning the cultural norm of the day on its head? If I knew that following Him would cost me everything, would I still go?

Would I have failed to pray with Him as did the disciples in the garden as He sweat drops of blood and pleaded for His cup to be taken from Him? Would my desire for rest have robbed me of the ability to watch with the Savior as He endured such anguish as this for my sins? 

What would I say or think if I had to witness the crucifixion of the Savior? Would I have been among His close devoted followers, or would I have been in the neutral crowd? Worse yet, would I have been among those jeering and wishing for the release of a hated robber named Barabbas? Would I have turned down my own chance at salvation just to be rid of a man who failed to deliver on His supposed promise to free my people from the Romans? 

Would I have missed Jesus for who He really was? Would I have been so focused like some on the needs at hand that I would neglect the simple fact that the Provider of all things was right there? 

Would I have acknowledged the miracle that was the physical manifestation of the Son of God? Or would I have walked away? 

I will never completely know the answers to these since I was not alive then. But this thing I know - these questions must drive me to live today intentionally. To walk my life-journey in greater faith and daring. To believe outside of my own human wisdom so that my eyes can truly see God for who He is and what He's doing in the world. I don't want to miss the miracles He's performing in every day life today simply because I'm too "busy" to notice. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why He Came

As we journey through this Passion Week and reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I think it only fitting to remind ourselves of why He truly came...

"Why did Jesus come into the world? To call sinners - those who know they have a terminal disease, those who are helpless and desperate, those who are hurting, those who are hungry and thirsty, those who are weak and weary, those who are broken, those whose lives are shattered, those who are desperate - sinners who know they are unworthy yet long to be forgiven...Thus Jesus came to expose us all as sinners. That is why His message is so penetrating, so forceful. It tore our self-righteousness away and exposed our evil hearts so that we might see ourselves as sinners."
                        - John MacArthur in The Gospel According To Jesus

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"We who profess and hold the precious faith of Christ in truth, do we also make Him our all in all? By our tongue He may be heard, but in our lives and deeds, is He to be found? As Savior many will own Him, but as Lord few do know Him...He that desires anything above Him, equally with Him, or without Him, shall never obtain Him. He will be won only when you seek Him with all your soul and strength or He will not be won at all."
                                 - Samuel Ward in Voices From The Past

Monday, April 10, 2017

Constant Dependence

"It is not needful that the Lord should raise up a mountain in my way, to stop my purpose; if he only withdraw a certain kind of imperceptible support, which in general I have, and use it without duly considering whose it is, then, in a moment, I feel myself unstrung and disabled, like a ship that has lost her masts, and cannot proceed till he is pleased to refit me and renew my strength. My pride and propensity to self-dependence render frequent changes of this kind necessary to me, or I should soon forget what I am, and sacrifice to my own drag. Therefore, upon the whole, I am satisfied, and see it best that I should be absolutely poor and penniless in myself, and forced to depend upon the Lord for the smallest things as well as the greatest."
                         - John Newton 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you."
                     - George Mueller 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...It's actually down in the mess that things get good...If you can't find happiness in the ugliness, you're not going to find it in the beauty, either. " 
                     - Joanna Gaines in The Magnolia Story

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The life of faith seems so simple and easy in theory, that I can point it out to others in few words: but in practice it is very difficult; and my advances are so slow, that I hardly dare say I get forward at all. It is a great thing indeed to have the spirit of a little child, so as to be habitually afraid of taking a single step without leading."
                            - John Newton 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I think the greatness of trials is to be estimated rather by the impression they make upon our spirits, than by their outward appearance. The smallest will be too heavy for us if we are left to grapple with it in our own strength, or rather weakness: and if the Lord is pleased to put forth his power in us, he can make the heaviest light. A lively impression of his love, or of his sufferings for us, or of the glories within the veil, accompanied with the due sense for the misery from which we are redeemed; these thoughts will enable us to be not only submissive, but even joyful, in tribulations. When faith is in exercise, though the flesh will have its feelings, the spirit will triumph over them."
                         - John Newton

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What God Calls Us To

"What God calls us to do is always impossible. Impossible, that is, without His help. It is always too big for us, too demanding. The price is too high. Yet He calls us to count not our lives dear to ourselves."
                         - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Monday, April 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Unbelief is continually starting objections, magnifying and multiplying difficulties. But faith in the power and promises of God inspires noble simplicity, and casts every care upon him, who is able and has engaged to support and provide." 
                    - John Newton

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If you and I have to pass through the furnace of affliction or sorrow, of losses or failure, then let us submit ourselves to the hand of God. Let us not question either His mercy or His goodness. We must often endure the chisel of affliction, as God carves us into His image. We desire to be godlike in character. Remember that God only afflicts for our good. Like the surgeon, God does not hurt willingly - but only of necessity. 
In our times of trouble, He would have us run into His arms and tell Him all our troubles, our questionings, our heartaches!"
                     - Charles Naylor

Friday, March 31, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Could we acquiesce with cheerfulness in the dispensations of an unerring providence, we should at once feel a spark of celestial happiness enkindled in our hearts. But this is a state of which frail humanity comes far short, at best. We wish to have this or that desire complied with and think that, could we but obtain the accomplishment of our wishes, we should be blessed indeed. But it is best they should not be granted; the wisdom and goodness of God assure us it is so. And yet, because they are denied, we sink into despondency and grief. My dear friend, I believe that if we could view things as they really are, we should find reason to say, 'The Lord has done all things well; mercy and peace go before Him continually.' Afflictions are sent for our profit, and if we do not profit by them, the fault is entirely our own."
                       - Susan Huntington in Seasons Of The Heart

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I have only to be thankful for what He has already shown me, and to wait upon Him for more. It is my part to commit myself to Him as the Physician of sin-sick souls, not to prescribe to Him how He shall treat me. To begin, carry on, and perfect the cure, is His part."
                     - John Newton

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


 Letting go is tough. But so much of life depends on that simple concept of release. 
Sometimes we don't even realize the baggage we are dragging along the journey of life. We think we've let go of certain things that have long bothered or distressed us but every so often we hit situations that remind us of a friendship gone cold, a loved one's selfish behavior, somebody's hurtful words, a painful move that had to transpire, or an unexplained awkward ending that was never resolved. We think we've moved on, but the truth is, we never fully did. 
 It's become apparent to me recently that I've been carrying unresolved situations for too long, and it's affecting my relationships and enjoyment of my life now. Part of my mind and heart is still stuck back in situations that ended badly years ago, and while maybe I've forgiven the people involved, I've never totally put the issue to rest. There are people who long ago stopped communicating with me (for whatever reason) or I distanced communication with them due to poor choices in their life...and yet, their phone number is still in my phone. Others I've kept mulling over wording for a possible letter or some form of re-establishing a connection that most likely will never happen. I'm still holding out some hope that time maybe changes these folks minds or that I can somehow help or  influence situations that, in reality, there is no investment or relationship to be had anymore. The other people have moved on. Even God has moved on and is doing many new things all around me. But I'm still holding on. I'm refusing to catch up to where God actually is now. 
 See, for those of us who love helping people, it's often hard to know when to stop. We can often hold out in circumstances with people that we should probably back out of simply because we think we can rescue them, save them, fix them, or change their situation. We think it would be unloving to set boundaries and step away when those boundaries have been crossed. We see it as insensitive if we told the people that our help seems to be no longer needed or appreciated.We agonize over the fact that while it may not be best for us to stay in the situation, somehow we think we need to. Maybe things will turn around. We feel badly that we can't see a story through to the end, instead of realizing that God may have only wanted us to help for a season. Perhaps He wants somebody else to take over where we left off in  the process of helping. But we don't want to see it that way. We think we - and only we - can make the difference in certain situations or people's lives. And so we stay. We put ourselves in a bad place because we are overly caring about other people's circumstances or feelings.  We don't seem to be able to tell ourselves that it's okay to let go. 
 But I'm starting to see now just how detrimental this can be. When you keep holding on with closed fists, your hands cannot receive the blessings and miracles of what God is doing today. When you're stuck in the past, you live in vain regrets over things you could've or should've said or done, and it takes strength out of relationships and situations you honestly can be helping in the now. When you allow previous hurts to keep driving decisions or choices you make today, you begin to live in fear of them happening again...and again...and again. You miss out on so much because you're still back thinking that the old might come back or a fresh start in a bad situation might happen. All the while, others have probably forgotten or moved on entirely and you're still reflecting on how you did (or didn't) say such-and-such, how you probably could've (or should've) kept going instead of backing out, etc. More importantly, God has moved on and we refused to come along with Him. 
 Loving others is important. Nobody should be pushed way who truly needs our help and prayers! But there comes a point where we limit our productivity for God when we don't let go soon enough. Sadly, there are situations that just don't turn out the way we thought they would. People maybe asked for our help and we gave it, but it turned out to not be what the people wanted to hear. Relationships where we thought there was agreement turned out to have little in common at all. Perhaps even those we supposed there was shared life-purpose ended up leaving us because they couldn't follow God to the extent that we felt called to. There are so many situations that can happen where we invest ourselves into others and the return of investment is minimal at best. We put in 80% effort and get 20% results...or maybe less. It is at this point that we must begin to listen to when God says, move on. 
 While it may take a very hard conversation to explain to the other party why you're backing out, the maximizing of your giftings and future serving others depends on it taking place. Lately, I've had a string of hard endings like this. I've had to end communication with some people, stop trying to reach folks who long moved past me, tell others my help is no longer affective for them and that I pray they find someone better to meet their needs. I've even had to delete numbers out of my phone of people who were once close to me. So many memories (good and bad) have had to be put to rest. But this process of shutting the door on yesterday, leaving what happened buried once and for all in the grave of time, turning over the hurts of others to the hand of God, has been healing of sorts for me. Healing in that I'm no longer responsible for what happened. I no longer have to keep holding onto some little thread of hope that things things might have switched. I've had to get to the point where I see that it's no longer expedient for me that I continue in situations where I do not have any influence anymore. (Or maybe I never did in the first place!) 
 In order to be in step with God, I must forget what's behind and rather press into what's ahead. I must catch up to where God is. So many good things are happening in my life (and most likely yours, too) but if we're like those runners in a race who constantly look back over their shoulder to see whose behind them, we will slow down ourselves and limit our chances at succeeding at being the best us we can be. We will limit our ability to live our one life well. 
 I'm to the point where I want to be fully invested in only those people and situations where I can truly affect positive change. If the person isn't wanting to be helped (regardless of if they tell you so), if somebody honestly does not want to change (even if they say they do), if you're stuck in situations where it's doing greater harm to you to stay in it than it is helpful to the other people, don't be afraid to seek God's blessing and walk away in total peace of mind, knowing you can no longer be responsible for their feelings or choices. Let God do the rescuing, the saving, the fixing, the helping. We can pray. We can love. But there is such a thing as caring too much. And that is what we must be careful about. 
 I don't know what it is that God may be asking you to release and let go of. But I do want to encourage you to take that step, hard as it is. So many blessings and good things will come as a result of us doing so. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Longing Soul's Satisfaction

"...They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way...hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses...
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."
                     - Psalm 107:4-6, 8-9

Monday, March 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"No one has ever lived, who has not had his times of discouragement, heaviness, sorrow, and disappointment. Cares and afflictions come to all. 
Life has its adversities - it must needs have them. Adversity, pain, sorrow, and disappointment, are the lathe upon which God shapes us. They are the grinding wheel which grinds and smoothes us. They are the polishing wheel which makes us shine. 
If we can never be happy until we are so situated that nothing exists which may tend to render us unhappy, then we shall have little happiness in life. 
Happiness does not come from a life of ease and indolence. It is not the result of the absence of obstacles and difficulties. Happiness comes from triumphing over them. Therefore the song of true happiness often arises from the soul which undergoes many adversities. 
Dear soul, Jesus knows all about your troubles. He knows every heartache, every difficulty, everything you must overcome, everything you must bear. Trusting in His grace, relying on His help, you shall soon find your heart filling again with melody, for the clouds will pass away!"
                     - Charles Naylor

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand."
                        - St. Augustine

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...He will mix mercy with every affliction. Like sugar in our tea, it sometimes lies at the bottom and needs stirring up! But there is always mercy there!
...There is sweetness in the bitterest cup which the Father gives us! Let us therefore look for the sugar as we sip the bitter potion!"
                         - Charles H. Spurgeon in Morning By Morning

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Fruitful branches, those actually abiding in the True Vine, are in the hands of a loving and gracious Vinedresser. As He carefully prunes and tends us, there may be some pain in the cutting. But we can be certain that He is doing it for our own good so that we will bear much fruit for His glory."
                        - John MacArthur in The Gospel According To Jesus

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Facing The Inner Atheist

 I'm coming to an obvious but startling conclusion: there is such a thing as "fake faith." One can honestly say (and convince themselves) that they believe without ever truly doing so. And I'm beginning to see how often this has been the case with me. 
 As a Christian, I am finding out more and more how hard living in true faith really is. It's so easy to say that we trust God, that we believe His best for our lives, that we have even accepted His grace for ourselves and believe Him to be our Savior...all the while living as if He doesn't exist. Choosing in daily things to deny Him as Lord of our lives and deciding that our own plans are better than His. 
 Great doubts even can trouble our souls...and yet, we still suspend our disbelief when we walk into the church doors. We sing of His love and of our desire to worship Him, we listen to the sermon and agree with what is said, we enjoy the fellowship and prayer of fellow travelers on the journey to grace...but when we walk out of the doors, we pick up our fears, our doubts, our disbelief - and we forfeit great joy and contented peace because we do not really know Him at all. 
 So often, I see how my old self - the uncrucified me - plays the part of Judas and walks with God everywhere, yet still refuses to fully bow the heart to His sovereign authority. I want to be in control...dragging regrets from years prior, thinking I know what should happen in the present, and fearing greatly what is to come in the future...all the while saying that I believe. But never fully addressing my unbelief. 
 Authentic faith is hard. So hard. It takes more bravery than I ever thought would be needed just to face the daily fears (mountains of them at times) with simple submission to the One who has written my story since before time began. The inner atheist in me is constantly raising its head and trying to tell me to question God. To question who He is, what He's done, what He has in store. It attempts to convince me that His plans are not reasonable...but whoever said I had to figure out God's thinking?! Me. I told myself this for so long...and I was wrong. 
 After years of listening to my inner falsehoods, it's hard to learn to talk truth to them instead. To face the fears of unknowns, of what ifs, of how comes, of whys takes everything in me oftentimes. Perhaps you know the feeling, the struggle. 
 Perhaps you're in the same place as me - just realizing that doubt has kept grace from running deep, that fear has kept faith from blossoming to its full potential. That blessings have been missed because the eyes of the heart were blind to the simple truth that everything is grace...that we can't change a single thing by worrying our one short life away. That we pass by daily miracles and demonstrations of Him because we're too busy trying to figure out what He's up to and what we should do about it. Perhaps we've accepted Him as Savior but have resisted Him as Lord. We've fought His right to providentially and sovereignly orchestrate His plan to completion. And thus, our faith has proven fake. It has turned out to be no faith at all. 
 Truthfully, God doesn't want us to do anything about His plan. Only to submit to it. Only to rest in it. Only to accept and acknowledge that He is good and we are forever loved. His plan may include great pain, great sacrifice, great uncertainty from our point of view. But such seasons of heartache, loss, and obscured revelation only reveal our further need for Him and teach us that the only way to truly grow is to be stretched and tested. Faith can only be proven genuine when it is tried. And God knows this. 
 But can we learn to be okay with it?! That's the real question. Can we learn to let go of our need to figure everything out and instead come to the profound conclusion that, "no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11)?
 My inner atheist needs to be laid to rest and subjected to the Redeemer's rule. My old self must die daily, hard though it is. I must learn to walk toward the things that paralyze my soul the most and say, God has already walked through this; I don't have to be afraid. 
 I see now that God can do much in a willing and submitted life - a life that is given over to the good and gracious dealings of God. A life that is rich in what matters. And such authentic faith can reveal the love of God to a searching world in the biggest way possible. But such a place of surrender can never happen until I learn to let go of my disbelief. Until I don't merely suspend it, but allow God to do away with it for good. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Afflictions are far from being signs of Christ's hatred. Many times they are evidences of of His love. The people of God only lack what is bad for them. God has promised to withhold no good can conclude that if you lack something of enjoyment, it is withheld since it is not best for you. It is no defect in the love of Christ, but a defect in what you are asking for."
                      - David Clarkson in Voices From The Past

Monday, March 20, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I no longer believe the myth that trials are a curse. Trials are an opportunity. They are an invitation to do good works to glorify our Father in heaven, to transform our lives from the inside out, and to drive us into the arms and footsteps of Jesus."
                                  - Laura Story in When God Doesn't Fix It

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Wilderness is sometimes the only place we can hear the voice of God. Jesus went into the wilderness to let His belovedness soak in. Do you do the same thing? A lot of us curse the wilderness. Something must be wrong, we think. We must be sinning. But what if the wilderness is a gifted time to learn your belovedness? ...God sees the wilderness as a special place between us and Him. What if we stopped rejecting it?"
                  - Jeff Bethke in It's Not What You Think

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"May this trial be as a lattice through which Jesus will show himself to your soul."
                   - Ruth Bryan in Seasons of the Heart

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Every true Christian has his winter and summer seasons. It is only in that blessed country, toward which we are hastening, that there is one unclouded day. With respect to myself, I have reason to bless the Lord for the storm as well as the calm. That is best for the soul which keeps it low at the foot of the cross, loathing itself and trusting only in Jesus, sinking before Him in order to rise in Him, who is our righteousness and strength."
                     - Sarah Hawkes in Seasons of the Heart

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends."
                      - George Mueller

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The God who made us does not then leave us to fend for ourselves. He is still Emmanuel, 'God with us,' even when to all appearances we stand alone against frightening forces."
                    - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"When we are tempted to murmur and repine under the cross, faith will assure that though the way is rough, the end of the journey will be sweet."
                - Thomas Manton  in Voices From The Past

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Perhaps there have been a dozen different things today that were not joyous, but grievous to you. And though you feel ashamed of feeling them so much, and hardly like to admit their having been so trying, and would not think of dignifying them as chastening, yet, if they come under the Lord's definition, He not only knows all about them, but they were, every one of them, chastening from His hand - neither to be disposed and called 'just nothing' when all the while they did grieve you, nor to be wearied of, because they are working out blessing to you and glory to Him. Every one of them has been an unrecognized token of His love and interest in you...
The particular annoyance that befell you this morning, the vexatious words that met your ear and grieved your spirit, the disappointment that was His appointment for today, the slight but hindering ailment, the presence of someone who is a grief of mind to you. Whatever in this day seems not joyous but grievous, is linked in the good pleasure of His goodness, with a corresponding afterward of peaceable fruit, the very seed from which, if you only do not choke it, this shall spring and ripen. If we set ourselves to watch the Lord's dealings with us, we shall often be able to detect a most beautiful correspondence and proportion between each individual chastening and its own resulting 'afterward.' The habit of thus watching and expecting will be very comforting and a great help to quiet trust when some new chastening is sent, for then we shall consider it as the herald and earnest of a new 'afterward.'"
         - Frances Ridley Havergal in Seasons Of The Heart 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The humble soul endeavors more how to glorify God in afflictions, than how to get out of them. Daniel, the three children, the apostles, and those worthies of who this world was not worthy were such. They were not seeking to get out of their afflictions but were concerned for the glory of God. They were willing to be anything and bear anything that God might be glorified...The humble soul says, 'Lord, keep down my sins, and keep up my heart to honor you in all my troubles. Though my burdens are doubled and troubles multiplied, help me to honor You by trusting, waiting, submitting to You, and I shall sing my cares away and say, it is enough.'"
                                          - Thomas Brooks in Voices Of The Past

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Those whose lives have had the deepest spiritual impact in the world are those who have suffered."
                  - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path Of Loneliness

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Three Years

 Three years ago, on this day, I began this blog with the intent of helping the hurting find hope. I realized that God, through my own painful journey, had given me a message that I couldn't keep to myself. I knew there were many others who struggle as I do and who need to hear the words of life spoken to them in their darkest hour. I expected and hoped that God would change lives.
 What I didn't expect was that this simple act of penning my thoughts and sharing my desire to dive deeper into grace would change me! Through this forum, God has allowed me to be inspired, to love more deeply, to share more freely, and to discover relationships with others who want the same thing. God has also used this avenue to help me to realize that hiding isn't an option for me anymore. I can't run from my fears and my failures as I once did. Masks cannot be an escape for me to disguise my weakness. I must be open. The life of grace-living is one that must be embraced in full - and that includes the hard parts. Walking with God isn't just for the good times - He must be God of my life in the joyous as well as the difficult seasons. For, if I trust His goodness, I must trust it to carry me through anything that befalls me along the way. He will grant all that is necessary... including the ability to say "yes" when my human nature wants to yell "no." 
 I am eager to anticipate God's working in yet another year of this blog's message-giving. It does and will continue to exist for the sole purpose of drawing the needy, the broken, the weak ones among us deeper into a knowledge of the grace of God which alone can mend all that is wrong within us. 
 Thank you to everyone of you readers for taking this journey and daring deeply with me. Thank you for wanting to see through to God and for accepting the words of this girl in Alaska as (hopefully) words of comfort and peace to your sin-sick soul. I trust that God will continue to use what is shared here as a source of hope for those seeking for Him. 
Most importantly, thank you, Jesus, for being my God through all of the twists and turns of an uncertain life and for being a Savior to a world that is fallen.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Carnal reasoning will tell you that God does not see or govern, but has left the earth. But as we go into the presence of God, we learn that all things are beautiful in their time. All of God's ways are merciful and true though we might feel much forsaken at the present."
                            - Richard Sibbes in Voices From The Past

Monday, March 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Let the Lord do as He wills to us! He will never be unkind to us! He has always been our friend - He will never be our foe! He will never put us into the furnace - unless He means to purge the dross out of us. Nor will there be one degree more heat in that furnace than is absolutely necessary - there will always be mercy to balance the misery - and strength supplied to support the burden to be borne." 
                                   - Charles H. Spurgeon

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Calmer Of The Storm

 Thank you, God, that Thou hast never left me to face the waves of uncertainty on my own. Thou who calmest the Sea of Galilee and bade Peter face his fears with faith - wilt Thou not do the same for me? I loath my lack of faith and regret that I so little put it into practice as I ought. My trust in Thee is so often less than what Thou deservest. But Thou assurest me that even the smallest faith is enough so long as I put it into use and place my trembling hand in Thine. I bless Thee that I can depend on Thee for every trial and rest in the surety that Thou wilt grant grace to meet every challenge. Teach me to get out of my boat of comfort and walk toward Thee. Let the winds roar and the waves roll deep, I will still believe and trust Thee!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Consider this medicine for your faith to drink in comfort: not the slightest trouble befalls you without the overruling eye and hand of God. He is not only our wise God, but a tender Father. He knows what you are made of and measures out exactly every cross unto us a chemist measures grams of medicine."
                                   - Samuel Ward in Voices From The Past

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"May I be allowed to say that whatever is the nature of your affliction, you will find it weakening to look at it; but, looking unto Jesus, you will have, moment by moment, incomings of strength and support - not a stock in hand, but just as you need it...
When looking at this or that painful thing, it is quite too much for us, but when looking unto Jesus and leaving all to Him, we are borne through the trial, and the very mountains become a plain, and the floods we thought would overwhelm us are made to divide that we may pass safely through."
                             - Ruth Bryan in Seasons Of The Heart

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fear Not!

 The last few days have been tough ones, and this song has spoken truth into my heart as I've tried to face my mountains of  fear with my little mustard-seed faith. The words have become a comfort as I've breathed His promise: "Every step you take is met with grace, you don't have to be afraid." And so today, I assure you that God has not left you or abandoned you regardless of what you're going through. We can enter this new week with hope because His message to us all is, "Fear not!"

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Place To Rest

A Place To Rest

Where can I find the answers to the things not understood?
the things I couldn't know would come my way? 
When what I planned so carefully unravels thread by thread
and in its place, a garment full of fray?
I was looking forward soon to living out my life
enjoying all the fruits of my long toil;
But now there is a bitter taste that I did not expect;
how could the plans I made now come to spoil?

It's at these times that vex my soul when I must stop to think
that maybe what I ask, I ask amiss.
Could it be my focus should be placed on something else
instead of that which took away my bliss?
For if I look back o'er my life at others I have known
I'll find that I don't struggle all alone.
Answers to life's questions surely all mankind does ask,
but as with me, they oft remain unknown.

This is when my God does gently redirect my thoughts
to only that which can bring peace of mind.
The Truth from which not only will I find a place to rest,
but any understanding I'm to find.
And even though my self-filled heart demands to have its way,
in quietness, my God gives this one thought;
When I think I have to know, He softly says to me,
"Know that I am God, and you are not."

- David L. Vanderpool

Monday, February 27, 2017

No Place For Complaints

 Isn't it a wonder how often we find ourselves murmuring and complaining about our crosses and adversities in this life?! When we have so many blessings and graces to season such sufferings, it is truly a sad marvel that we choose only to see the losses and the lackings. 
 I've been thinking on this a lot lately and noticing the frequency with which I tend to notice and focus solely on a problem instead of a gracious provision from the Savior. I'm quick to tell God what isn't right in my life instead of what is
 Recently, I read an article that challenged me on this tendency and made me beg God's mercy for my ingratitude. 
 Jakson Follman was an aspiring soccer player who found himself as part of a Brazilian soccer team that was having a dream season. The team, Chapecoense de Futebol, was flying to an upcoming match two months ago when the plane carrying around 75 people crashed into a Columbian mountainside. 71 of the passengers were killed, including nearly every player and the coach. Seven survived the initial crash, but only six of them are alive to see recovery. Jakson is one of those six. He lost his leg as a result of the crash and has had to come to terms with his new life...a life, most likely, without competitive soccer. It's been a hard road for him and his fellow survivors of the crash. As the tragic news became known throughout the world, they have tried to begin the long road back...both in physical recovery but also as a team and organization. Support from other teams and fans around the world has given them hope. Physically, Jakson is making a comeback. Doctors tell him his progress has been remarkable for the short time since the crash, and he is learning to walk with a prosthetic leg. 
 But something Follman said regarding his emotional recovery caught my attention. He said that he has learned to let go of the anger he initially held toward those responsible for the crash, leaning on his faith to help him find forgiveness. He went on to recently tell The New York Times in an interview,

"It's not for me to stay stuck in a corner, sad and begging for my leg, or asking God why I lost my leg. God gave me life again." 

 He says that he's learned how to focus on the good things and turn his mindset around when he thinks about the accident. And I'm sure if we could ask him, he would agree that thankfulness is what has made the difference. While our trials may not require us to come to grips with losing a limb or dealing with the death of an entire team like Jakson, we can each learn a powerful lesson regarding the need for gratitude. 
 So often we choose to listen to the dishonesty of our feelings and question God why things happen. We choose to fight our sufferings and complain under our crosses in this life instead of finding a way to bless God. He is most honored when we choose thankfulness in the midst of the most dire of circumstances. This life was never promised to be easy. But we've so bought into the lie that we deserve to be perpetually happy that we repine sorely when adversity hangs hard on us. But how might it turn our attitude around if we instead decided to choose joy?! 
 This is where the Grace-journey becomes most hard yet fulfilling. It is about learning how to gaze into the uncertainties of life and still trust. It is about resolving to thank - no matter how difficult things get. It is about choosing to trust and daring to believe - even if the unpredictabilities threaten to bury us and steal our very souls. 
 Part of the #365dare that I issued last Thanksgiving included "looking for little things to thank Him for." This, to me, is what changes everything. When you begin to realize that everything is grace-gift and that He has ordained every trial for your growth, you start to look for seeds of goodness to hold onto, no matter how rocked your world may be. You begin to choose to fight your own complainings with the sureness of His love, talking to yourself in the fear moments and reminding yourself that He is always good. 
 I don't know what your challenges may be, but I ask you to join with me in seeing them as grace. God has seasoned your trials with blessing and has proportioned your sufferings exactly to your need. Trust Him. When we choose to see Him, we will find no place for complaints. Rather, like Jakson Follman, we must realize that God has given us life and that is enough. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The End Of Me

 I only find life when I follow through with my Savior's command given in Luke 9:23 when he said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." I must learn to let my old self die so that the new me can be brought forth. I must let go of my own ambitions, my pride, my self-conceit and sacrifice them all on the altar of surrender. God must have all of me, or He cannot use me fully. When I give it all to Him, I will find the peace, the hope, the joy that I so desperately seek, for when I arrive at the end of me, I discover the beginning of God. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...I love you, Me. But I can't keep living for you. You always insisted that if I'd just keep you happy, then I'd be happy - as simple as that. But you know what? It's not as simple as that. It never has been. Me, I've let you be in control and sit in the driver's seat, but it's clear you can't be trusted. You keep insisting you know the way we should go, but it always seems to be a dead end. I've looked into some other options, and I have decided to begin a journey down a different path. It's narrow and difficult and not many choose it, but it leads to real and abundant life. However - and there is no easy way to say this - I can't take this path if I bring you along. So, Me, this is the end of you. Sincerely, Me."
            - Kyle Idleman in The End of Me

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I hate running into the end of me, yet it's where I often begin to reach for more of God."
                       - Suzanne Eller in Come With Me

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I've come to the conclusion that I'm not the most reliable interpreter of my own life. I can be quick to label experiences as good or bad, but the longer I live the more I've seen that experiences I thought were 'bad' ended up producing some of the best things in my life. (I've even found that some of the 'good' things in my life have hurt me in time. But even that produced wisdom for me in the long run.) 
It gives me hope that perhaps it's true, that our Father really is able to 'work all things together for the good of those who love Him.' 
How do I learn courage unless something scares me so much that I am frozen in my own fear, but I have to act anyway?
How do I learn forgiveness unless somebody hurts me so deeply that I'm in danger of becoming someone I don't want to be - so lost in my own bitterness and anger that I know if I don't figure out how to forgive I'm going to lose myself? 
How do I learn about the unfailing love of God unless I fail Him so miserably but find that He hasn't abandoned me yet? 
The point is that I never know if I'm on the way up or down, but I am beginning to trust that all of it is leading me home, and I'm learning to be grateful for all of it."
                           - Jason Gray 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Each time my heart in love to Christ says YES when my human nature says NO, there the cross is taken up. There I become a little more like my Master, there I live in Him, there I participate in His work of fulfilling the Father's will on earth."
                  - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Monday, February 20, 2017

When Dreams Must Die

 This world tells us to dream...and to dream big. I don't see anything wrong with doing so as goal-setting and aspiring to high things is a noble endeavor. So many historic and prolific achievements would never have come to pass had somebody not had a dream to begin with...
 If the founding fathers of our country never dreamt of liberty, the United States never would've become a nation.
 If William Wilberforce had never dreamt of a world where people of all colors could be treated equally, the abolition of the slave trade never would've taken place.
 If Thomas Edison had never dreamt of the lightbulb, we never would've had the gift of electricity.
 If Alexander Graham Bell had never dreamt of a device whereby people could hear one another's voice, we never would've gotten the telephone and means to span distance through conversation.
 In short, dreaming has changed our world in so many ways. In and of itself, dreaming big isn't a bad thing.
 But here's the thing...we don't know how to let dreams die. Because sometimes, God asks us to give up what we love most in order to receive His best.
 When I was younger, I had a dream. I had a certain field of volunteer effort and study that I was passionate about, and I had devoted nearly ten years already to it, starting in my teens. All of the paths seem to line up that I would walk through the right door at the right time and begin doing the thing I cared about so much. I loved it. I loved the people involved in it. I saw so much that could be done.
 But...God's plans intervened. And He asked me about two years ago, to put that dream to rest. It was by far the hardest thing I'd ever done. I never thought God would ask me to let go of what I'd been working so much toward for so long. It was death of sorts. And it hurt. Many tears were shed as I had to keep aligning my aching heart with God's will. Saying "yes" to Him when everything in me screamed out "no" was so difficult. I thought there was no way I could come to love anything else I did as much as I did my previous work.
 And yet...God eventually did something within me that I never would've expected. He replaced that dream with a new one. And I realized something profound: sometimes dreams have to die for new ones to come alive. Most likely, I never would've ended up with the job I have or the people I have met in the last couple of years had I held out hope that the dreams of the past would still come to be. If I hadn't been willing to give up my own plans in exchange for His, I would've missed out on blessings that have since changed my life.
 I still have dreams. Some of them haven't yet come to fruition, but God's delays in these matters don't necessarily mean they're His denials. And so I wait patiently and accept what He has given...not allowing His not-given at this point to spoil the amazing life I have.
 I don't know what your dreams are...maybe it's a job or a big promotion; maybe it's a future spouse; maybe it's having children; maybe it's a better place to live, or a better education for your kids. Whatever your dreams are, I want to encourage you to trust God with your future. Dream big, and dare greatly. But live life with an open hand and don't make the fulfillment of your goals and dreams the be-all end-all of your existence. Life is about so much more than getting places and accomplishing stuff.
 And realize too that, in some cases, the death of our dreams isn't the end of us but is actually the beginning of our true purpose. God may ask you to give up something or someone that is incredibly dear to you in order to receive a bigger and better blessing. In that moment, don't be afraid. Rather, let your faith in the goodness of His plans override your doubts, your questions, your heartaches. The end of one thing may, in reality, be the start of a heart-miracle you didn't even know you needed! 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Every morning as I walk with Jesus, I ask Him to open our eyes more and more each day.  Because when we see Jesus clearly, then we can follow Him. One of the scariest questions we have to ask ourselves is, what if we aren't seeing Jesus properly? What implication does that have for our lives? What if Jesus isn't who we think? I believe he's always catching us off guard, creatively challenging us, pursuing us, loving us."
                  - Jeff Bethke in It's Not What You Think

Friday, February 17, 2017

Prayer of the Day

"May I never give Thee rest until Christ is the pulse of my heart, the spokesman of my lips, the lamp of my feet."
                               - The Valley of Vision

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

"As Christians, we should not enjoy just an ordinary level of cheerfulness, we should go way beyond those of the world both in quality and quantity. Our happiness should be sweeter, higher, and more constant than any carnal man." 
                           - Samuel Ward in Voices From The Past

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...The answer to our loneliness is love - not our finding someone to love us, but our surrender to the God who has always loved us with an everlasting love. Loving Him is then expressed in a happy and full-hearted pouring out of ourselves in love to others."
                            - Elisabeth Elliot The Path of Loneliness

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Word About Love's Valentine's Day. For those who have a special someone in their life (spouse, fiancee, boyfriend, girlfriend), it's a day to let that person know you care about them and want to show them your love. For the singles out there, it's a day to remind yourself that you don't have what others have...and the longing can set in. 
 Honestly, I feel like this day is rather silly. Because, we don't need just one day to be reminded to love those around us. We should be loving them fully and deeply every day of the year. And love isn't contained to merely a romantic relationship as this day suggests. I feel like Valentine's Day (while well-intended) just adds to the notion that you can only love or be loved if a "special someone" is in your life. And that only such a relationship can satisfy or fulfill you as a human being. 
 I want to take a moment to encourage us all...regardless of whether or not we are currently in a serious relationship that love isn't limited to who, where, or when. Of course, there are varying levels of love and certain depths of intimate affection that can only be reserved for our dearest and closest relations and family. But, just because we are or aren't in a relationship doesn't have to define how we love or whom we love. Or even if we feel loved at all. 
 In my younger years, I used to think that I could only be loved deeply if I had a guy in my life. (Even you male readers out there know what I'm talking about here.) We all struggle with this concept that our special someone is the solution to our happiness or lack thereof. We set expectations for the people around us to satisfy our deepest longings, our innermost needs. But the crazy thing is...even when such people are in our lives, we can still feel alone. We can have the best of human love available to us and still feel left out, lost, and distant. 
 Because here's the thing...human love is fickle. Even as deeply as we are given the capacity to care for one another, we fail often in our love toward each other. We fall short of how much we could be demonstrating that love in countless ways...because we're selfish; we're arrogant; we're in a rush; we're more concerned with being right and being heard than loving deeply. Thus, we have equally the same capacity to hurt and divide as we do to care and love. And we're successful in this far more than we'd like to admit. And there is only one cure for such a broken condition of the heart...
 God must teach us how to love. 
 Apart from the most perfect and divine Example of what true love looks like, we have no idea how to lay down our selfish aims for the good of another. We have no concept of how to love without limits, of how to forgive without reservations. He must show us the way. In like manner, we must have first experienced His love in order to feel valued in this one life we live. Otherwise, we cannot give what we have not known for ourselves. 
 Loving takes a lifetime...and often multiple failings in understand and learn. This is why I feel that our culture takes loving too lightly. We treat it as a feeling instead of a way of life. We think that, as go our feelings, so can go our love. But God demonstrates to us that love outlasts feelings. Commitment to the people in our life who matter doesn't depend on how we feel that day...because there will be days that you don't feel so loving to those around you. It is in that moment that you must decide to continue in that love, regardless of how you feel. Love is demonstrated trust in action. Trust that outlasts the ever-changing winds of our emotions. 
 And only One truly gives this in the most true and honest way possible. People come and go in our lives and not everyone who is here today will be here tomorrow. Even though we may be blessed with an amazing circle of love in our lives, we will still face days where we feel let down by those people. Even times when they hurt us...deeply. We will face hours of intense loneliness when even their love is not a cure. 
 This is where God's love must be foremost. When all other loves are aligned with His, our worth doesn't have to change with the people and situations around us. We can know that we matter...every day of the year...because of Him. His love is not confined to one day or one place or one person. His love reaches greater, higher, deeper, fuller than anything any person can ever offer us on this earth...including ourselves. All human loves fall short in light of His limitless affection for us. 
 So...on this Valentine's Day...whether you're single, dating, engaged, married, or even widowed...take joy. Feel loved...because the King of Kings calls you so. Feel valued...because the God of the Universe cares for you. Feel satisfied...because your happiness is found in Him. So let the chocolate flow, the dinner dates happen, the romantic movies commence...but know this -  (and know it deeply) - you are always loved because He is always good. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Can we give up all for the love of God? When the surrender of ourselves seems too much to ask, it is first of all not because our thoughts about God Himself are paltry. We have not really seen Him, we have hardly tested Him at all and learned how good He is. In our blindness we approach Him with suspicious reserve. We ask how much of our fun He intends to spoil, how much He will demand from us, how high is the price we must pay before He is placated. If we had the least notion of His lovingkindness and tender mercy, His fatherly care for His poor children, His generosity, His beautiful plans for us; if we knew how patiently He waits for our turning to Him, how gently He means to lead us to green pastures and still waters, how ceaselessly He is ordering and ordaining and engineering His Master Plan for our good - if we had an inkling of all this, could we be reluctant to let go of...whatever we clutch so fiercely in our sweaty little hands?"
                        - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...God will [not] always gives us what we want if we make him the priority in our lives. He's not a genie who's there to do our bidding if we simply say or do the right things. He may or he may not. He is God, and he is not obligated to do what we think he should. For some, coming to Christ might result in losing a job or important relationships. It might mean any number of difficulties or hardships. The Bible tells us that Christians will suffer for the sake of Christ, so don't expect life always to be easy if you're faithful in following the Lord. Yet he's faithful to us through our struggles, even if they never go away...
No matter what happens, God is a gracious, loving father who delights in doing good things for his people...the Lord is kind and is quick to pour out blessings on those who love him, even if they come in ways we do not expect...What an amazing God, who deserves our praise and our devotion. It's easy to say that when things go your way, but it's no less true when they don't. Even a defeat is an opportunity for me to say how good God is."
                            - David Boudia in Greater Than Gold